Stormers coach John Dobson has backed his team’s character to pull them through playing at altitude against the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers travel to Pretoria to take on a Bulls side coming off arguably their best performance under new head coach Jake White against the Sharks last weekend.
A day before that match had kicked off, the Stormers got themselves out of trouble with a final 15-minute blitz giving them a comeback win over the Pumas at Nelspruit.
While their performances in their first two Super Rugby Unlocked matches have been far from their best, the Stormers have at least shown a mentality to strike when it matters.
They will need a similar mentality if they are to get anything out of their return to altitude at Loftus Versfeld, where a few of their forwards may be asked to play close to a full match again.
‘It is a tough place for us to go and play, travelling up from sea level,’ Dobson said. ‘There is nothing you can do about it. It isn’t a motivational thing, it is purely scientific.
‘The one thing this team has got is character. Holding on against the Lions and digging ourselves out of a hole against the Pumas in Nelspruit has shown us that this team has got character.
‘You had Steven Kitshoff playing the full 80 minutes against the Lions, you had [loosehead prop] Leon Lyons playing into the 60-minute mark and [lock] Salmaan Moerat – who is used to being substituted – playing 80 minutes.
‘We had the four weeks before the Super Fan Day to condition our guys. I think the one thing you won’t find us wanting for on Saturday is character. Steven is right, when the scrums are getting to the sharp end, when the legs are going a bit, the team that believes in each other and trusts each other the most will be the team that gets the dominance there.’
Dobson backed young No 8 Juarno Augustus, one of the players whose domestic season perhaps hasn’t got off to the best start, to turn his form around when he faces Springbok veteran Duane Vermeulen, who will be captaining the Bulls.
‘Trokkie came to us and admitted that – given the way he was going before lockdown – he knows that last two games haven’t been up to his standard,’ Dobson said.
‘We all know that this guy is a warrior. He is tough and he will bounce back.
‘Trokkie is one of those guys who likes the big occasion,’ Dobson added.
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images